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Posts Tagged ‘After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene’

BY GALE FULTON, ASLA

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From the June 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Several conditions of the contemporary world present serious challenges to traditional or conventional ways of thinking and making in landscape architecture. Some of these, such as the continuing analog versus digital debates, are tiresome, rarely well-argued (by at least one side if not both), and counterproductive to an advance in the cultural efficacy of the discipline. Others are more complex and unwieldy, but also likely have much greater capacity to expand the scale and scope of landscape architecture in the future. In this category I would place the interrelated questions of “planetary urbanization,” “Nature,” and the effects of the Anthropocene among the most perplexing and fecund for the future of the discipline. As Jedediah Purdy writes in After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene, “As climate change shifts ecological boundaries, problems like habitat preservation come to resemble landscape architecture. We can’t just pen in animals to save them; we need to secure migration corridors and help species move as their habitats lurch across a changing map.” In effect, we will have to become planetary gardeners.

Obviously, such massive questions exceed the capacities of any one discipline’s knowledge. But this “bigness” should not be an alibi for continued reliance on outmoded ways of thinking such as notions of cities or sites as discrete, bounded conditions that can be operated on without understanding of context or flows. Similarly, and perhaps even more relevant to the day-to-day practices of many landscape architects, ideas (or ideologies) regarding nature, ecology, wild, invasive, and native continue to be treated as simplistic binary conditions that prematurely shut down what could be a vast territory of conceptual and practical exploration. It may also be that landscape architecture is particularly well-suited to engage these territories because of the unique disciplinary potential made possible through the hybridization of typically distinct science/design/humanities epistemologies. With these larger questions in mind, two recent books prove useful in providing not only new conceptual frames to intellectually engage these issues, but also updated tools and techniques necessary for developing concrete practices to physically and practically engage these conditions in ways that move beyond the status quo.

As the title suggests, Planting in a Post-Wild World by Thomas Rainer, ASLA, and Claudia West, International ASLA, draws upon the notion that (more…)

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